Cool stuff

Halting [image, comic] – because never not post halting problem comics.

Why Gen Z Loves Closed Captioning [text] – as someone who will rarely watch TV, even in French, without closed captioning (and my hearing is fine, I had it tested ;)), I can relate to that a lot 🙂

Aeon’s End: A Functional Review [text] – a game review that made me curious about a game I may have dismissed otherwise. I still don’t think this would be the game for me, but now I kind of want to play it.

How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems [text] – woo, Randall Munroe just announced a new book!

DIY Miniature Modern Party Home (with Real Swimming Pool) – I got fascinated by the assembling of this miniature 🙂 (And there’s a whole channel of it!)

How colliding blocks act like a beam of light…to compute pi – the third video in the series I started talking about in a previous Cool Stuff post.

Someone clever once said women were not allowed pockets [text + images] – it IS quite obvious that pockets in women jeans suck, but now there’s DATA. (And this is why I’ll continue shopping for jeans in the men’s section. Well, that and stretchy fabric. Brr.)

it all started with a big bang [text] – Wil Wheaton talks about his time on The Big Bang Theory, and it’s nice and wholesome and good.

What happened to Limit on Jaina? [text] – one of the major World of Warcraft raiding guilds got beaten on the latest raid for “first guild to finish the raid”, and they explain how that happened. I’m pretty fascinated by the “problem-solving” that goes behind the scenes of being the first players to discover the content and write the strategy guide for it 🙂

Invisible formatting [image, comic] – too real, XKCD, too real.

52frames – 2019 Week 05 – Dirty

Now 52Frames had a pretty tough theme – “Dirty“… I had a few ideas before this one, but I ended up liking the idea of the running mascara (which actually never happened to me, because… I rarely wear mascara :P)

I started experimenting in front of the mirror by putting some mascara on and dropping some water from above my eye. I actually got a half-decent result, realized I hadn’t set up my equipment yet (oops), ended up setting up a tripod (including screwing the fast release plate on the camera) with one eye closed because it was stinging a bit by then…

I repeated the “mascara + water” operation a few times and took a fair amount of shots before I decided for that one – I’m not necessarily super-happy with the mascara run itself there, but I liked it better than the others when it came to expression and sharpness.

Post-processing was mainly cropping, de-saturating a bit and playing with various cursors here and there 😛

Chemins de fer du Kaeserberg

A week ago, we went to Fribourg, and more precisely to Granges-Paccot, to visit the Chemins de fer du Kaeserberg – a very impressive model railway exhibition.

The visit starts with a short movie that explains the origins of the project and gives a bit of technical background. I was fascinated by the work on the dioramas… and by the existence of a railroad-cleaning train 🙂

After the movie, we arrive in front of the first “station” that stores the trains that can travel on the rail network on that day – they say that they have 87 trains that are ready to travel.

The trains travel to the “main” circuit a couple of meters above via an helicoidal ramp, that is unfortunately not visible from the outside. There’s a hidden station to buffer trains before they actually arrive in the publicly visible area.

There are three networks in the model, all at 1:87 scale, but with two different track widths (H0 and H0m), corresponding to “standard” gauge and “narrow/metre” gauge.

Every half hour, night falls, giving a whole other atmosphere to the model.

They’re still working on a second line for the Kaeserberg train – it’s pretty neat to see the work in progress!

And finally, obviously, a Pierre for scale:

The full album with a few more pictures is here: Chemins de fer du Kaeserberg.

If you enjoy model trains and/or geeky stuff in general, I can highly recommend the visit. But beware: I found myself becoming far more enthusiastic about model trains after the visit than before 😉 Also, they have specific opening days, and it’s advised to make reservations for the tour.

#balisebooks – January 2019

Ce post est traduit en français ici : #balisebooks – Janvier 2019

Let’s try a new format where I try to write a #balisebooks a month (and to write it as I go so that I can publish it on the last day of the month 🙂 ).

Un Cowboy à Paris – Achdé and Jul (in English: A Cowboy in Paris) – the latest Lucky Luke album, where Luke meets Bartholdi and Eiffel (and, indeed, travels to Paris). A very entertaining read: I laughed out loud more than a couple of times 🙂

Glamour in Glass – Mary Robinette Kowal – second book of the Glamourist series. It’s in the direct continuity of the first one, so the general mood and characters are the same. I liked it more than the first one: there’s more exciting stuff happening around the magic system, there’s more action, there’s less “will they/won’t they”. And there’s a couple of tough decisions and tough situations that are, in my opinion, very well handled.

Factfulness – Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund – I wanted to start 2019 with an optimistic read, so I picked Factfulness just after midnight on January 1st. I had put Factfulness on my “to-read” list after reading Bill Gates writing about it (Why I want to stop talking about the “developing” world) – did I already mention that I quite enjoy Bill Gates book reviews? Factfulness is a nice, short read about “facts about the world you probably have wrong”. The main thesis of the book is “the world is actually getting better; it’s also been getting better for a while, and in particular since you’ve been taught about it in school.” Rosling is very careful to not say that things are not bad, but as he mentions several times, “being bad and getting better are not contradictory”. He also explains a number of biases and ways people react to things that can make them see the world as worse than it is, and getting worse. I did like that book, and it fulfilled its goal of “starting 2019 on an optimistic note”; it’s however probably a fairly short-lived book, because the data and facts that it relies on are probably getting old fairly quickly as well.

Caliban’s War – James S.A. Corey – the second book of the Expanse series. I watched the first season on Netflix, I read the first book, I watched the second season a while ago, I read the second book… and I started the third one just after that (note: this typically doesn’t happen, I usually like a small break between two books of a series, if only as a palate cleanser). The Expanse is a series of books that take place in a few hundreds of years: humanity has conquered the solar system and put bases in a fair amount of places. There’s basically three “factions”: Earth, Mars, and the Belters – who, for the most part, were born in low-gravity and can’t really expect to ever go planet-side. In that universe, we follow among others a team of people led by Jim Holden, idealistic to the point of clumsiness, who ends up at the core of a number of large-scale incidents involving events way beyond his pay grade. In Caliban’s War, he’s mostly busy with finding the kid daughter of a scientist, who disappeared during one of those large-scale incidents. I really, really liked Caliban’s War – for me it’s just the sweet spot between world building, politics and action; the writing is very engaging, and I like the multiple point-of-views structure. Highly recommended (but start with the first one – Leviathan Wakes).

Abaddon’s Gate – James S.A. Corey – the third book of the Expanse series. It starts a few months after the end of the second one, and a mysterious ring appeared somewhere on the orbit of Uranus. And circumstances conspire such that the Rocinante and its crew end up being part of a flotilla of ships that go study it – and get into unforeseen problems. This was still good, but I liked it somewhat less than the previous one. I liked the newly introduced characters, but I missed a few from the previous books. The plot rhythm stayed on par with the previous one, even if the plot itself was less to my liking – I was bothered by the “mysticism” that shrouded parts of the plot, and I literally flinched at some unpleasant parts of the it. The latest chapters did make me raise an interested eyebrow and I’m looking forward to the fourth book (I’ll have a break before I start with the fourth one, though 🙂 ).

Harry’s Trees – Jon Cohen – Harry is an employee of the US Forest Service – a job that, to his deep regret, doesn’t have much to do with trees. And his wife dies in a very sad freak accident. Amanda is a nurse who lives in a forest house – and her husband dies with a very sad aneurysm. Her daughter, Oriana, is still hoping that her dad will come back, and retreats in a world of fairy tales. Until Harry and Oriana meet – and the fairy tale becomes a little more real. This was such a beautiful book – I loved it. First, it has a lot of trees, and a lot of love for trees, and I like trees. Then, it has just enough magic to be magic enough without being completely unrealistic. And there are books, and a library (and its librarian), and fairy tales… and more trees.

And if you were to read only one of these… Harry’s Trees.

52Frames – 2019 Week 04 – Macro

The theme for 52Frames last week was “Macro” with an extra credit “Focus stacking”. I’ve been wanting to experiment with focus stacking for a while, so this was a good opportunity 🙂

I also knew I wanted to go for a somewhat “technical” shot – since I was experimenting with new post-processing, I wanted to make my life as easy as possible. But still – it took me a while to decide what interesting subject I could use, until my husband pointed out my hatching dragon figurine 🙂

I first did a round of a dozen pictures or so with my 50mm, ended up missing some focus points in some places, and with pictures that didn’t align well automatically (I’m suspecting that my 50mm lens’ focale is moving quite a lot when focusing). But at least it allowed me to set things up in a satisfying way, including using board game boxes to fiddle with the height of my pile 😉

I finally took a bunch (28, I believe) with my telephoto lens, which happens to have a macro setting. The “macro” thing may be pushing it a little, because the magnification factor is smaller than 1:1 (actually, the lens spec says 0.5 max magnification, sooo…), but oh well, I have a large sensor, I’m allowed large macros 😛

I first tried fiddling with Hugin and Enfuse, but I didn’t manage to make it work (I’ll try that again at some point, probably), and I finally dumped the whole thing into ZereneStacker, which gave me the above result with minimal fiddling (okay, fine, I did a bit of re-retouching of the image after the fact).

I hesitated on the crop – I did consider a tighter crop on one of the heads, for instance, but I decided that I quite liked the full figurine as it was. Also, this way, it doesn’t show as much how much this figurine needs dusting 😛

Cool stuff

Ernő Rubik: The Cube Represents Man as a Thinking Being [text] – an interview of Ernő Rubik, from Rubik’s Cube fame.

I ordered a box of crickets from the Internet, and it went about as well as you’d expect [text] – well, exactly what the title says. Beware: live crickets.

What Life Is Like When Corn Is off the Table [text] – an article that describes what it’s like to be severely allergic to corn (apparently it’s a thing). Particularly fascinating for the amount of stuff in which corn can sneak… (Apparently, it’s also way more prominent in the US. Still: color me fascinated.)

Laws and Sausages – The Electoral College [comic, multiple pages] – To quote them, “The goal of Laws and Sausages is to be a comic about politics, without the politics. […] We aim to be the civics education you either never got or chose to ignore.” And it’s also educational for people outside the US 😉 The latest episode explains the electoral college.

Warhammer 40,000 Funko Pop! Figures [images + text] – Sooo. I’m not a fan of Funko Pop! aesthetics in general. When I first clicked on that link, I was half-expecting an April’s Fools joke. And now… I kind of REALLY WANT a Funko Pop! UltraMarine. And I’m obviously waiting for the Orks. And there’s a few earlier drawings and thought process at the bottom of the article, which is always nice.

Lunar Eclipse over Cologne Cathedral [photo] – a pretty cool composite of this week’s lunar eclipse.

The most unexpected answer to a counting puzzle – now THIS is probably the coolest thing of the week (and we’re only Tuesday at the time I write this). It starts with “okay, consider two blocks that move on a friction-less plane along a wall and let’s count the total number of collisions”. And I’m not going to spoil it, because that wouldn’t be fun. And then the next video in the series (don’t look at the title to avoid spoilers 😉 ) explains the math behind it and it’s even cooler. And the person doing these videos promises an even-even cooler explanation for the third video. I can’t wait 😀

​Shooting to kill – how many men can do this? – this one is interesting and somewhat disturbing. It explains how hard it is for most of the human population to actually pull the trigger in a war context, and how it’s apparently feasible to train them so that’s it’s easier. And asks the question of what happens to these people when they’re back to civilian life.

Marble Marcher – A Fractal Physics Game – some stuff about collision handling with a fractal-generated terrain.